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A complete guide to vegan beauty and skincare

Side view of a woman washing her face with a vegan foam cleanser in the mirror
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If you’re trying to cut out animal products and make the swap to vegan skincare you’re not alone. According to a survey carried out in the United Kingdom in 2021, over 39 percent of beauty consumers stated that they found it very important that brands selling vegan cosmetics products had them certified by a third-party organisation.

Lots of beauty brands have responded to the new demand for vegan skincare giving you more choice of vegan-friendly products than ever before. We’ll take you through cruelty free vs vegan, ingredients to watch out for as well as how to make your whole beauty routine a little friendlier to the planet.

What is the difference between vegan and cruelty free?

Veganism is on the up, and there’s now much more out there about following a vegan diet and clothing choices, but what about our skincare, beauty products and lifestyle? Some people assume that cruelty-free and vegan are the same, but simply, vegan products mean they don’t contain any animal products. Cruelty-free means the product hasn’t been tested on animals.

Some of the animal ingredients in non-vegan products could be beeswax, sometimes found in lipsticks, face creams, mascaras and eye cream. Lanolin, can be found in some eye creams and shampoos. Fish scales sometimes used in shimmery makeup and gelatin sometimes used in shampoos and face masks.

For ease, when looking for new products, check the label for the “Vegan Trademark” and “Leaping Bunny Logo”.

Green vegan logos

Common non-vegan beauty ingredients

When shopping for cruelty free skincare, cosmetics and other products you’ll want to look out for the most common non-vegan ingredients:

  • Beeswax- also listed asCera Alba or Cera Flava. Commonly used in lip balms and face creams.
  • Oleic acid – From animal and vegetable fats it’s often found in soap and moisturisers.
  • Keratin – created from animal hair, it’s often used to help strengthen hair and nails.
  • Collagen – derived from animal tissue, vegan alternatives are available.
  • Lanolin – known as wool wax or wool fat, it’s created in the oil glands of sheep and used as an emollient.
  • Squalene – the oil from shark’s liver is used in a range of products but vegan alternatives are available.
  • Animal hair – often found in makeup brushes and false eyelashes
  • Carmine – also listed as Cochineal and Carminic Acid, it’s a red pigment made from crushed beetles. Found in cosmetics and shampoos.
  • Stearic Acid – derived from animals, often used in soaps and hair spray. Vegan alternatives are available.
  • Guanine – Taken from fish scales and used in bronzers and nail polishes with a shimmery effect.
  • Casein – from cow’s milk, this protein is used in conditioning hair products.
  • Retinol – a form of vitamin A usually derived from animals.
  • Glycerine – used in makeup, soaps and a range of other products it’s derived from animal fats.
  • Shellac – a resin from insects which is used in nail polish and some hair lacquers.
  • Silk powder – used to colour soaps and face powders, it’s created by boiling silkworms in their cocoons.

Common vegan-friendly beauty ingredients 

With vegan beauty becoming more and more popular brands and manufacturers are looking for and using vegan alternatives. When shopping for vegan-friendly products keep an eye out for these more common ingredients:

  • Plant and vegetables oils like almond or coconut
  • Paraffin wax – found in lip balms
  • Beetroot juice – used to colour shampoos and blushers
  • Synthetic animal hair
  • Plant based acids
  • Plant proteins

Many of the traditional ingredients used in cosmetics now have a synthetic or plant-based alternative. Make sure to read the label and look for the cruelty-free or vegan logo.

Vegan skincare routine

Spring is a great time to mix up your skincare regime and add in some ethical, vegan products. We’ve collated some of our favourite products for face and body.

If you’re looking to replace your skincare routine completely, a good place to look is the Skin Academy Zero range. It’s natural and environmentally friendly skincare which is suitable for those with sensitive skin.

It includes a:

Browse our conscious buying skincare for vegan and sustainable options. 

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Lush lips

Moving on to the lips, the Beauty Kitchen Natruline vegan lip balm is 100% natural and fragrance free. It’s designed to be suitable for the driest and most sensitive lips, leaving them feeling soft and supple and it doesn’t contain any petroleum.

Dr. PAWPAW shea butter balm is a must-have product for any make-up bag, handbag or desk drawer. This multi-purpose balm can be used on your lips, skin and hair. Made from 100% natural ingredients, it's both vegan and cruelty free. It can be used as a skin protector, moisturiser and to even soothe sunburn.

Blemish prone skin

If your skin is prone to the occasional blemish, the Australian Bodycare spot stick is a vegan way to soothe your skin. Containing witch hazel, and featuring a roller ball, it will help to fight bacteria, tighten pores and calm any itches.

Vegan bodycare routine

The Faith in Nature aloe vera soap bar is handmade and 100% natural. Packed full of essential oils, this vegan soap will leave your skin feeling nourished and rejuvenated. The packaging is both plastic free and recyclable so it’s perfect for the environmentally-conscious.

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Keep washing your hands

The lavender and geranium handwash also by Faith in Nature is beautifully scented with 100% natural fragrance and is vegan. The natural ingredients and essential oils cleanse deeply while remaining gentle to the skin and kind to the environment. The packaging is also fully recyclable.

Scrub away

Infused with organic coconut oil, the Inecto coconut body scrub will leave your skin silky and smooth by removing dead skin cells. It is cruelty free and contains 90% natural origins. Suitable for vegans, this scrub will invigorate your skin, ready for summer.

Vegan haircare routine

Like the Dr.PAWPAW balm, the multipurpose hair and body conditioner is also an iconic product. Gentle enough to be used by the whole family, with a mango and coconut scent, it will leave both hair and skin feeling silky soft. Apply this vegan conditioner to hair and body while in the shower and rinse off to feel hydrated and refreshed.

As well as being vegan, Hairburst shampoo and conditioner is suitable for all hair types and can help with hair texture and shine, as well as making it more manageable to comb through.

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Vegan makeup 

Skincare brands aren’t the only ones trying to go vegan – plenty of cosmetics companies are signing up to the pledge too. Read our cruelty free makeup blog for more top tips. 

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Vegan vitamins

If you’re looking at supplements that are vegan friendly, then some of the Nutri Within range will work for you.

This includes:

Please remember, that food supplements shouldn’t be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. If you’re considering taking a food supplement, please come in-store and speak to a member of our healthcare team for advice. For information on how to have a vegan diet, see our blog on Can a vegan diet help with weight loss?

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Vegan hair vitamins

Enriched with biotin, zinc and selenium, the Hairburst unicorn vegan hair vitamins are designed to help achieve healthy hair growth. Easy to chew, they help to improve hair strength, shine, density and manageability. They are also free from gluten and dairy and can be taken every day.

Spray and spritz

The BetterYou vegan health spray has been designed to deliver 4 essential vitamins and minerals directly into the bloodstream. Containing vegan Vitamin D3, Vitamin B12, Iron and Iodine, it provides an easy to use way of getting the vitamins under-presented in vegan and vegetarian diets. Containing 48 daily doses, and in wild berry flavour these vitamins are a tasty alternative to taking tablets. The packaging is also made from ocean waste plastic.

How to make your beauty routine more sustainable

Look for products with eco-friendly packaging

The vegan lifestyle isn’t just about the products you consume – it’s about the waste you leave behind. Lots of brands are doing their bit for the environment by introducing:

  • refillable packaging
  • plastic-free packaging
  • creating pots, bottles and cartons that are fully recyclable

All products in Skin Academy’s ZERO range from their eye cream to face wash, come in 100% recyclable packaging, using renewable materials like glass, bamboo and sugarcane. Australian Bodycare products also boast 100% recyclable packaging as well as a range of hair care so you can update your hair routine too.

Read our blog to find out how to recycle your beauty products

Try solid soap bars

Recyclable packaging is a great way to reduce waste and environmental impact, but some companies are going even further in their quest to reduce packaging.

Faith in Nature and Eco Warrior are two brands that offer solid:

These remove the need for plastic bottles and pumps. Soap bars are a great swap for liquid hand wash in your bathroom and kitchen when you’re cleaning your hands.

Ditch single-use products

One of the best things you can do for the environment is ditch single-use items that will end up in a landfill pile, including:

  • disposable wipes
  • cotton pads

Within the beauty world, disposable wipes are a big offender – especially when they get flushed down the toilet rather than thrown in the bin.

The good news is, alternatives to the single-use makeup wipe and cotton pad are already available. If cleansing pads aren’t your thing a cleansing bar, like the Nivea magicbar, can help you cut down on plaster even further. Simply wet the bar, cleanse your face and gently pat dry with a towel.

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For more inspiration browse our conscious buying skincare range.

Vegan and skincare routines

Ready to make the switch? Now you know which ingredients to avoid and what alternatives are available, transforming your beauty routine to be fully vegan should be easy. Switching to a vegan skincare or vitamin routine isn’t necessarily about getting rid of products you already own. It might be that your go-to brands are already vegan and cruelty-free, or that they have a vegan range with products similar to your existing faves – you won’t know until you check the ingredients.  

If you’re thinking about going vegan read our vegan diet blog for food swaps and tips. We also have more beauty blogs to help you, from preventing dry lips to removing unwanted hair, we’ve got you covered.